Love for people inspires military chaplains

By Airman 1st Class Elliott Sprehe

Most military chaplains, who come from all walks of life, have a love for people that inspired their decisions to pursue the chaplaincy and motivate them to serve.

“I have the greatest job in the world,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Eusebia Rios of the 27th Special Operations Wing Chapel. “The best part — the biggest perk — is the people.”

Rios said she wants to know her family who wears the Air Force blue, in addition to those in all military branches.

“What I see are these awesome men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces and it makes me so proud,” said the chaplain, known by many as “Happy Chappy.”

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Robert Gallagher, of the 27 SOW Chapel, was a Catholic priest before he became a military chaplain more than 20 years ago.

“I used to help out at an Air Force base when I was in graduate school, so I joined the Air Force,” said Gallagher. “It’s been fascinating.”
Chaplains can walk into a room and encourage people, said Rios. “We represent the holy, but also peace, hope, and comfort.”

“The times that people hurt, I hurt with them,” Rios said. “I marry, bury, and baptize. I am a student of human beings and love to build relationships and get to know people.”

It isn’t always service members who affect chaplains, as they can find themselves in different parts of the globe meeting a variety of people of various religious backgrounds.

“I’ve met all sorts of fascinating people, been places I never thought I would be, and had chances to do things and help people under tough circumstances,” Gallagher said.

Many people in civilian ministry don’t get the chance to do some of the things military chaplains find themselves doing on a regular basis, Gallagher said.

“You get immediate feedback (from people). Sometimes at your average parish, you don’t always know if you’re accomplishing a lot or not. Being a chaplain, you can really help people just make it through the day, and that’s something that I’ll miss when I go back to civilian ministry,” said Gallagher, who is retiring this summer.

Some of the airmen Rios remembers are from the time she spent as a chaplain at Lackland AFB in Texas. There, she met with newly-enlisted airmen during their time at Basic Military Training.

Helping new trainees, who would soon become airmen, only encouraged Rios more with her love of people.

“I call everybody my babies, because I love everyone,” she said. “One thing that all chaplains share is a genuine love for people.”

Chaplains don’t force religion upon anyone, and according to Gallagher, “in the military we have a good amount of respect that people can feel comfortable coming to us with any personal issues.”

“It’s about the moments,” said Rios. “My goal is to help whomever needs it. I don’t care what their religious backgrounds are.”

Through good times and bad, people often seek someone who is understanding, a good listener, and someone who cares. And no matter what their background or what their religion, airmen can rest assured that chaplains will always be there to provide support.